The Future of Healthcare Is Digital

Sick woman in quarantine talking with her doctor online using a tablet computer - healthcare concepts

By Dr Michelle Mah, Sunway Medical Centre Business Development, Branding & Communications Director

Southeast Asia is home to 655 million people and two of the world’s largest economies, China and India. The demand for healthcare in Southeast Asia has never been greater, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic. This has accelerated both the adoption and innovation of digital health and is poised for growth.

According to an article by the Bangkok Post, healthcare spending in Southeast Asia is forecast to increase to USD740 billion by 2025, compared with $420 billion spent in 2017. And according to estimates, the global digital health market is expected to exceed USD504.4 billion by 2025.

Therefore, we are living in extraordinary times and Sunway Medical Centre recognises that accessibility to healthcare must move beyond the confines of brick and mortar while enhancing patient experience within the hospital will be a defining differentiator.

SunMed Go powered by a Mobile Generation

A report from Accenture shows that Malaysia has a high number of digital consumers with over 80 percent of its population connected to the internet and this is predicted to grow to over 85 percent by 2022. This means more people are accessing services and products on-the-go.

Enters SunMed Go, Sunway Medical Centre’s healthcare needs on-the-go. Available both on-app and web, this was designed with the convenience of patients in mind. From scheduling an appointment with a consultant to teleconsultation to medical and imaging reports, these services are now made possible at your fingertips.

Another app, Chemocare, is being developed by Monash University Malaysia in consultation with the Ministry of Health Malaysia and oncologists at Sunway Medical Centre. This aims to help cancer patients monitor and report chemotherapy side-effects to know when they need to see a clinician.

Building on Tele-Consultation and Pioneering Telemedicine in Malaysia

Last March, Sunway Medical Centre launched tele-consultations for patients who require healthcare services that do not require them to be physically present. Patients can now consult their doctors, speech therapists, audiologists, rehabilitation team and dietitians wherever they are. To date, the hospital has conducted more than 1,000 tele-consultation sessions and its popularity continues to rise. Additionally, the tele-monitoring service for diabetic patients enables caregivers to measure the patients’ blood glucose remotely with coaching of lifestyle changes.

In January this year, Sunway Medical Centre launched the country’s first dedicated 24-hour Telemedicine Command Centre, bringing telemedicine services far and wide. New patients who may require a second opinion on medical-related issues can now access first-level advisory services from our team of medical officers and nurses anytime, anywhere.

In one instance, a distress call from a ship was handled by the hospital’s medical officer who provided timely advisory for an injured crew member. Not only that, telemedicine demonstrates the potentials to save lives but this service also bridges the gaps in connecting patients to the right specialist for those who need may further consultation or treatment.

Operational Automation and Excellence

By the year 2050, countries like Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia are expected to see an increase in their populations by 40 percent, which means a growing demand for healthcare. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also shows that by then, persons aged 65 and above will make up 15 percent of Southeast Asia’s population, triple of what was reported in 2010.

However, this region is seeing a shortage of physicians. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Southeast Asia has fewer physicians on average, at 0.6 for every 1,000 people as compared to developed countries like Germany, with an average of 3.7. This is where technology plays an integral role to supplement the healthcare industry, especially in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Sunway Medical Centre embraces technology as the way forward with continuous improvements to its operations. One example is the use of Nemuri SCAN for wards. This technology features a built-in fall prevention alarm system on the hospital beds with contact-free patient sensor that continuously measures patient’s sleep, heart and respiratory rates. This enables the healthcare team to provide timely care while optimising efficiency.

When it comes to medical technologies and facilities, Sunway Cancer Centre prides itself as being one of the most advanced radiotherapy facilities around. Amongst others, it is equipped with Elekta Leksell Gamma Knife ICON, an advanced radiation treatment for multiple neurological conditions. This non-invasive machine delivers high dose beams of radiation to its target while causing little to no damage to surrounding tissues. Sunway Medical Centre is also accredited to be a Designated Centre of Integrated Oncology & Palliative Care by the European Society for Medical Oncology.

Most recently during the first Malaysian Movement Control Order last year, Sunway Medical Centre collaborated with Sunway iLabs to build a contactless COVID-19 Testing Pod to enable healthcare workers to conduct testing for suspected cases in a safer environment. The air conditioned, filtered contactless pods not only reduced the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which was in short global supply then, but medical officers could also stay within the pods longer. This minimises the risks of infections.

Embracing The Way Forward

The journey towards long-term recovery and growth in a post-Covid Southeast Asia will need renewed partnerships and continuous innovations across the healthcare ecosystem. It takes a shared vision and collaborative effort to pursue a modern digitised healthcare system and for one, Sunway Medical Centre aims to be at the forefront of this journey in Malaysia.

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